Tuesday, 26 April 2016

An Introduction to the World of VFX by Fee Stewart

Written by Duncan Van Den Top (Year 7) and Joe Lea (Year 9) Student Reporters

On Thursday 14th April 2016, Fiona Stewart (one of the few female game makers in the country) came to our school to talk about Visual Effects ‘VFX’ and Game design. This is our report on the happenings.

10:30 – Fiona Stewart arrives. She is welcomed by Joe and is brought into the Auditorium where she starts to set up her presentation. There is some minutes left before the talk. We approach Fiona and have a chat about what I (Joe) want to do in the future and it turns out the conversation to be very insightful.

11:00 – The students arrive. After around 5 minutes everyone is seated and ready. And soon the show begins. Fiona starts by introducing herself and what she does daily in her work place. She works from home. Her job is amazing and we got to see a video of how the brilliance of visual effects (VFX) creates life like images and characters.

She then talks about jobs that are available in the VFX field; and surprisingly, most of these jobs are based in Britain! When you work in VFX industry it may mean you work in film, television or the advertising industry. Wow! We now know more clearly about the different areas in VFX and how bigger companies like EA want you to be good at specific things whereas the smaller companies like Indi like people with lots of different qualities.

Fiona explains to us how at the start of a job you will have to work your way up. In the game industry you would begin as a runner . For your information a runner is someone who helps the studio to run smoothly and to learn the tools of visual effects VFX at the same time. The runner will also test a section of a game hundreds of times to see if there is a bug.

There are some steps in making games:

Development - idea plan, before any great game is made an idea must first be created for what your game is going to be about , you will need to share your ideas with your team and improve on it before you move on to pitching the idea to a company.

Pre-Production – pitch, where your team presents your idea to a company that can fund the project. You may have to pitch your idea to more than one company before it gets funded.

Production –During the process of producing a game, the QA needs to make sure that the game is bug and glitch free and that everything is running smoothly.

According to Fiona, Science and Maths are very important in the gaming industry. If you wanted to start, depending on your qualifications, you would either begin as a QA who plays a section of a game to test for bugs, or if you had better qualifications you would be put in a higher position, for example, as a designer. You would choose your own path, paint backgrounds and add more pictures in front to make it look real.

Formerdroid LTD, the gaming company that Fiona formed along with her other colleagues, gave her the chance to go to China to see her game presented at an awards evening and she also got an award for the top 100 women in games. One of the many pieces of her honest advice is to listen to others, but to also go on your own path and do what you want to do. Additionally networking is always good.

To get started you can study programming which you can start learning now, as a Year 9 student by choosing ICT as one of your options. You can learn what C++ is. You can also make games on Game Maker which is an application that our school provides for free! You can study Pop Culture, Psychology and English as well as take part in competitions, do research , work in a team and most of all, you must LOVE WHAT YOU DO!

The following are some more thoughts Fiona shared with us (the student reporters) after the audience left.

When did you start working in this game designing industry?

In the 1990s

Whilst designing a game, what are you most worried about?

Things always go wrong but you need to adapt to what might go wrong with a new coding.

If you weren't in the industry what would you do?

I would probably want to do something with art.

What did you do when you had children?

I worked at home.

What was your favourite subject?


If you could switch place with something what would it be?

Giraffes because they are wonderful animal.

What is the difference between a game and a game console?

A game is software, a console is hardware. You can't touch a game but you can touch a console.

What is the basic difference in designing games for boys and girls?

Colours are different between girls and boys as boys see brown, grey, green and darker colours; thus boys’ games have more of these colours and girls like more vibrant colours and so girls’ games have brighter colours.

Daizy (our reporter of Year 7) believes that there should be more girls so there are more different games not just the same.

Some more very interesting facts we learned from Fiona:

Today’s games are different from years ago as everything is improved for there is more ram which means you can put more in games.

52% of women play mobile games as girls like games to pick up and put down. The main reason for this is that in computer games you have to wait to save which take away and so they like games which they can pause and play.

Once we had finished our interview we took a lovely group photo outside the school and soon we were back inside helping Fiona clear up. We all got a booklet about careers in visual effects VFX.

Our Special thanks to Fiona Stewart and the national charity Into Film who has given us this brilliant opportunity! We still remember Fiona’s advice very vividly: “Form a group of friends who have the same passion and start doing small projects”. Yes! We will.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Whitley Celebrates Success at Awards Evening

Whitley Academy celebrated the school's 'Awards Evening' on Thursday 21st April 2016.

Nominations for a variety of awards, including 'Most Improved Student', and 'Student Reporter of the Year', had been based on the voting of fellow colleagues and students. Each nominee was accompanied by a guest, to help celebrate their successful year. The event was compared by Mr Steinhaus, and each nominee had a tribute video message projected on a large screen for all the audience and guests to see.

Last year’s winner of the 'Most Improved Student' category, Daniel Morrissey, played the piano as a interlude, and the event was followed with drinks and canapes.

The event was extremely successful and it was great to see the support given to students and staff alike.

Philippa Cordingley was a guest visitor who handed out the rewards to the nominees. Philippa is the Chief Executive of CUREE and an internationally acknowledged expert in using evidence to develop education policy and practice. 

Philippa is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of teachers, A Fellow of the RSA, Chair of Governors for the RSA Academy Tipton, and Vice Chair of Willenhall Community Primary.

Well done to all winners and runners up!

Friday, 15 April 2016

Whitley's Siege on Kenilworth Castle

Written by Duncan Van Top – Year 7 student reporter

On Friday 18th March 2016,  all of us – the Year 7 students - went to the historic Kenilworth Castle to learn more about the history of the castle, and its defences.

It was a Friday….

However, this Friday started as normal but with one difference: those of us on the trip were not wearing school uniform.

As we were such a BIG year group, we were divided into two smaller groups going on two different days. Everyone was eager to get going and I was going to be in charge of taking photos on this trip - a job I was happy to do.
At 9:10am we started to get on to our assigned coach so we could get there a bit earlier. We were soon on our way. I was sitting next to my friend and fellow Student Reporter, Alex.

We arrived around 9:30am and soon split up into our tutor groups and began our tour around the historic landmark. A few of my friends were camera-shy but that didn’t stop me from snapping up a few amazing scenes.

The Castle looked more like a ruin than a castle for there was only one building which hadn’t been ruined through time. We soon found ourselves in the centre of the majestic Elizabethan Garden. The wonderful sculptures and plants dazzled in the chilly air. Small birds, big birds, every kind of bird was kept at the back in a wooden cage. It was like a bird sanctuary. And the peaceful surrounding with its tranquillity… It was amazing.

The way up was tiring, for there were too many sets of spiral staircases but luckily my legs didn’t give way and send me tumbling back down.

When we reached the second level we found a large hole going down from the top. I believed it was a large chimney but a few creatures learned the hard way as there were animals on the ground. OUCH!

Soon we reached the top and it was like a medieval scene from a film. Down bellow the battlefield lay still and quiet. It was empty. No trees, no plants, no animals. 

 At 12:00pm a worksheet was shown to us and we were told to complete it to the best of our abilities. We soon finished the work and were allowed to run around to keep warm.

At 1:00pm we headed inside to the information room to have lunch. The other tutor groups were also gathered inside. A tutor group had already gone to the gift shop and were browsing around the stuff on sale.

At 1:45pm our group visited the gift shop. My friends bought a variety of souvenirs with the money they had. I bought two bouncy balls and a slingshot that worked and came with ‘ammo’. It was very accurate. (I found this out later at home).

At 2pm we met up with another tutor group (purely by chance) and thought it would be fun to run up the hill (you can imagine how much we struggled to run uphill). By the count of three, we became a herd of ‘wildebeests’ and stampeded up. The teachers had to step back or we would have trampled over them. But not all things students wish come true….

After the run, we started to walk to the coaches to take us back. A few final pictures, a few final jokes, a few final glances at the landmark and then we were gone...

By Duncan Van Top – Year 7 student reporter.       

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Whitley French Students Visit Partner School in Lille

On the 31st March, Whitley French students visited our partner school, 'Collège Jean-Mermoz’, in Lille, France.  

Students arrived at school during the Easter holidays bright and early on the morning of the 31st March with one exception, Mr Chauhan, who had stopped off for a McDonald’s breakfast en route – first forfeit for him!

The first day was relaxed with service station stops and excellent behaviour demonstrated from all of our students – a real credit to the school. The evening meal went down well with the pupils in the hotel – sausage rolls, chicken, chips and doughnuts (well, not all at the same time!)

Early the following morning, we travelled to our partner school to begin our day in a French school  - after a very warm welcome which included some amusing drama sketches prepared by the French students, there was a fact finding hunt around the school based on the French tradition of ‘Poisson d’avril – April Fool’s Day’.  

Gifts exchanged, it was time for lunch, a menu prepared especially for their English visitors…much to Louie’s delight, more chicken! The afternoon was dedicated to three group lessons taking part in lessons learning and discussing the Paris attacks, Eco-Schools and designing their ideal school after a quiz to learn about the differences between our two schools.  In the bright Lille sunshine, some of the students played a mini basketball tournament in the afternoon before we headed off to eat in Lille and to allow students some free time to explore the main square of the city before dinner.

Saturday kicked off with a guided tour around Lille before the students and teachers were given some free time to explore the sights further by themselves, do some shopping and/or taste the delights of French cuisine, and of course to locate JD Sports, Footlocker and Chloe Spencer’s personal favourite – Sephora!

On Sunday, the pupils experienced a truly typical French morning by visiting one of the largest outdoor markets in Europe, at Wazemmes in Lille where much chocolate and bargains were purchased (and consumed..)! We then set off to pay respects at two cemeteries along the coast of France and Belgium to commemorate the First World War.  We paid our respects by reading poems together and laying a wreath where many British soldiers were buried at the cemetery of Ballieul Road West. 

The second monument was the Canadian memorial at ‘Crête-de-Vimy’; this was an incredible sight, and largely untouched by the Germans in the Second World War due to Hitler having fought there in the First World War. The scarred landscape from the perpetual bombing and explosions is now covered with thousands of pine trees planted to honour the Canadian soldiers - one for every life lost and new trees planted every time one dies to ensure every soldier whose name is etched around the base of the monument is remembered.  So many lives in fact that the French donated the portion of land in front of the memorial to Canada - so our students can even say they have visited part of Canada too on this trip!

The pupils further visited Arras, a beautiful city influenced by ‘Flemish (Belgian)’ architecture and with some wonderful buildings which glowed in the fantastic spring sun which we were treated to on the Sunday. On the evening, we held a presentation ceremony and rewarded all of the hard efforts and excellent behaviour, as well as the support the pupils had demonstrated for eachother throughout the trip.

On Monday we headed home but not before a quick stop to stock up on souvenirs and of course…more chocolate and sweets to bring back for friends and family!

A truly memorable French experience for everyone, we would like to extend our gratitude to our partner school teachers and students for their kindness and efforts, which made our visit educational, interesting and fun.